There is good reason to send children to school. Students tend to learn less when they are not in regular class, and new data from Australian teachers show this is likely to have been the case during the COVID-19 lockdowns. In one survey of more than 5,000 teachers in NSW, only 35 per cent were confident their students were learning well in remote learning. In disadvantaged schools, only 15 per cent of teachers felt assured of student progress.
Many disadvantaged students, who were already falling behind before the crisis, will have slipped further back. We find the achievement gap widens at triple the rate in remote schooling compared to regular class. Even if remote learning was working well, disadvantaged students are likely to have learnt at about 50 per cent of their regular rate, losing about a month of learning over a two-month lockdown.
This report recommends that governments promote two high-priority initiatives for schools to take up where relevant. These initiatives are proven to be effective across many schools, they can be implemented quickly, and they would also help stimulate the economy. They are not necessarily the cheapest options, but they have the highest chance of success.